A play that originated at Portland Stage Company in 2014 is a finalist for a prestigious national playwriting award.
“Veils” by Tom Coash of Connecticut is among six in the running for American Theatre Critics Association’s New Play Award, which recognizes playwrights for the best scripts that premiered outside New York City.
Portland Stage premiered the show a year ago.
“This puts our theater in a different class of work,” Portland Stage executive and artistic director Anita Stewart said. “It puts us on the map on a national front.”
The award, worth $25,000, will be presented April 11 at Actors Theatre of Louisville in Kentucky during the Humana Festival of New American Plays.
“Veils” examines the differences and similarities between America and the Middle East from the perspective of women’s rights and traditional roles. It revolves around two women attending the American Egyptian University in Cairo during the Arab Spring of 2010.
Coash wrote the play based on his experience teaching in Cairo. “I was really disturbed and impressed by how different the people in the Middle East are opposed to how they’re perceived in America in our various forms of media,” Coash said. “I always wanted to write something that showed the Egyptians I know.”
He praised Portland Stage for “taking a chance on an unknown play and an unknown playwright.” Portland Stage is the only theater that has produced the play, though Coash said it is scheduled for three productions this year, including one at Barrington Stage Company in Pittsfield, Massachusetts. He hopes the exposure of the nomination means more productions.
Portland Stage became aware of “Veils” through its Clauder Competition, a New England playwriting award sponsored by the theater. Coash was an agent-less playwright whose work had been seen only at smaller venues, Stewart said. He won the Clauder, which in addition to a $2,500 prize came with the promise of the mainstage production at Portland Stage. That happened last March.
Previous Clauder winners have gone on to great success, including Bill Donnelley, whose “Magnetic North” has had many productions since its Portland Stage premiere, and Quiara Alegria Hudes, who won for “Yemaya’s Belly” and later won a Pulitzer Prize.
Other American Theatre Critics Associations finalists are “Butler” by Richard Strand, which premiered at New Jersey Repertory Company; “The Christians” by Lucas Hnath, Actors Playhouse of Louisville through the Humana Festival; “Dontrell, Who Kissed The Sea” by Nathan Alan Davis, National New Play Network Rolling World Premiere Program; “The Downpour” by Caitlin Parrish, Route 66 Theatre Company in Chicago; and “Luna Gale” by Rebecca Gilman, Goodman Theatre in Chicago.